BOSTON (Reuters) - A majority of Boston-area residents now oppose the U.S. bid to have the New England city host the 2024 Olympic Games, amid growing concern that taxpayers would be stuck with the bill, according to a poll released on Friday.
The poll conducted this week for WBUR radio by the MassInc Polling Group found that 52 percent of Boston-area residents oppose the idea of having the Summer Games in and around eastern Massachusetts.
That level of opposition is significantly higher than was found by polls by the same group in February, when 46 percent opposed the idea, and January, when just 33 percent opposed it.
The U.S. Olympic Committee named Boston as its choice in January.
Some 65 percent of the 504 registered voters polled from March 16-18 said they believed taxpayer funds would be required to pay for the Games, which organizers have estimated will cost about $9.5 billion.
The poll has a 4.9 percentage point margin of error.
Mayor Marty Walsh has vowed that city taxpayers would not foot the bill for hosting the Olympics, arguing that private funding could cover the cost of managing the events, and noting that the proposal calls for many events to be held at local universities, which have extensive sporting facilities.
The major piece of new construction, the Olympic Stadium, would be a temporary edifice that would be dismantled after the athletes, fans and media go home, according to the bid.
Overall, opposition to the bid and concerns about taxpayer liabilities were somewhat higher in Boston’s near suburbs than in the city proper.
A study released earlier this week estimated that hosting the Games could bring $5 billion in new economic activity into Massachusetts over the six years leading up to the Games.
The Boston 2024 organization, formed to support the bid, said the poll findings appeared to reflect area residents battered spirits after the snowiest winter on record, which brought extensive transportation delays across the region in February and March.
“The more one-on-one conversations we have, discussing the benefits and addressing concerns, the more support will grow,” said Rich Davey, chief executive of Boston 2024.
Bidding for the Olympics, which would be the first held in the United States since the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, will put Boston up against a field that could include cities such as Rome, Paris, Berlin and Doha.
Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Eric Beech